- Celebrating Popcorn day: A history of Popcorn
To celebrate International Popcorn day the team at A1 Equipment are taking a look back at the history of this most tasty of treats. A cinema staple and party food favourite popcorn has an impressive history, before being mass sold in 19th Century America it featured in Stone Age eating habits as well as Aztec religious ceremonies.
Possibly not the most well-known of scientists Harvard Grads Herbert Dick and Earle Smith found the oldest ears of popcorn. Buried deep within what may be the oldest rubbish heap known to man, in a bat cave in central New Mexico that has been carbon dated back 5,600 years. And from then our venerable snack pops up in an impressive number of ancient artefacts- a Zapotec funeral urn dating back to 300 A.D depicts a Maize god with symbols representing primitive popcorn in his headdress. Around the same time period ancient popcorn poppers were found on the North coast of Peru. It would seem our ancient ancestors may have had a similar inclination towards this most delicious of snacks.
The Aztecs took their popcorn extremely seriously (as well they should.) Used as part of ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments it was viewed as an offering to the gods to ensure safety for their people and for a successful harvest. The Aztec people believed that popcorn resembled hailstones and offered it to their gods in water to placate them and protect their fisherman. There was even a popcorn dance which was performed during the festival of Toxcatl by young women as a method of further honouring their gods. It was so important to the Aztects that they even had a word for the sound of many kernels popping at once – totopoca.
Popcorn plays an important part in American popular culture, and according to myth was part of the first ever Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth colony. Whilst an enticing tale, the story is unfounded and popcorn didn’t have a cultural reference until 1889 and originally went by the name Pearl or Nonpareil. It was brought over to America by the Iroquois nation and was commercialised by Chicago entrepreneur Charles Cretors in the 1890s who built the first ever popping machine. The machine was mobile meaning popcorn could be sold anywhere and its popularity exploded with the arrival of Cinema. During the Great Depression popcorn was one of few affordable treats and its appeal continued to rise during World War II. As sugar was rationed Americans ate three times as much popcorn as previously and popcorn’s ascent only really started to decline with the arrival of Television.
Modern Day Popcorn
Popcorn has recently received a massive boom as the general public has become increasingly health conscious seeking out lower fat and more nutritious alternatives to traditional snacks. According to the Telegraph in our own United Kingdom sales of popcorn rose by 38% and we ate 12 million kilograms of everyone’s favourite corn derivative. A classic alternative to crisps with no frying or heavy carbohydrates involved its popularity seems to be ever on the increase, perhaps it is time we considered reinventing the Popcorn dance.